have tarried coming back here because I didn't want the hassle and distraction during final projects at the end of the semester. You had a long post. I will try to respond to some of your points.
With respect to Microsoft 'ripping' things off, you mention Visicalc, DRDOS, and Wordperfect. Let's start at the root; DRDOS. Microsoft certainly did not rip off DRDOS. If you knew anything about the history, you would know that. Digital Research did not invent the Operating System, and it was not a pioneer on the microcomputer scene. Digital Research was a relative late comer to the micro scene. Lots of companies BEGINNING with Microsoft, and including the likes of Tandy Radio Shack were on the scene before it. Microsoft shipped the first programmimg language for the MITS computer and its successors. Tandy was on the scene with TRS-DOS long before anyone heard of Digital Research. Microsoft pioneered in micro operating systems by introducing a variant of Unix called Xenix. It was there long before Apple, or to my knowledge, ANYONE else was looking to Unix as a potential micro OS. DRDOS did become popular, and was approached by IBM. DR blew off IBM, and IBM went to Microsoft. Gates has just acquired the rights to an OS, written by a third party, called QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System). Gates offered that to IBM, and went on to refine and develop that OS. The rest is history. It's an inpossible stretch to imagine that Gates ripped off DRDOS. The two OSs were quite different. I knew MSDOS, and DRDOS was still a mystery to me. There was very little similarity between the two. If 'most' people don't think that, I suggest that it is because they don't really know the history.
It's the same with Visicalc. Sure Visicalc was the pioneering spreadsheet, but Excel did not copy nor did it compete with Visicalc. Excel's competition was not Visiscalc, but Lotus 123 and Lotus 123 blew Visicalc out of the water. There was no comparison between the two products other than they were both organized into rows and columns with formulas in the cells. Thus, you might accuse Mitch Kapor of ripping off Visicalc, but you can't accuse Microsoft or Gates of that. Visicalc was irrelevant to Excel, and was no longer a factor in the market. In addition, even Kapor didn't accuse Microsoft of ripping off his product. He accused Phillipe Kahn of that, but not Gates or Microsoft.
Wordperfect? It wasn't the first by a longshoot. Wang probably invented the word processor, and outfits like Tandy with its Scriptset were in the business long before anyone ever heard of WordPerfect. As was the case with Excel and Visicalc, Word did NOT copy WordPerfect. Anyone who knew Wordperfect, had a completely new learning curve if they wanted to switch to Word.
The same cannot be said of Apple. Apple directly copied the look and feel, even the peripherals of the Xerox system. Then Jobs claimed it was his. It wasn't.
Various antitrust charges came much later than the period being discussed. Microsoft probably did some of what you charge, but, without citing specific cases, you can't draw that general conclusion. Many companies were simply beat by better technology, and their subsequent charges were little more than sour grapes. I should note, however, that it was Microsoft that helped keep Apple afloat. First, by providing some of the key applications Apple needed to make their systems viable, and subsequently by direct investments to keep Apple afloat. The European Union simply sees a cash cow that they are trying to rip off while protecting their own home grown technology companies from superior US technology.
Apple is legendary for leaving their customers behind while moving on to new machines and new operating systems. Microsoft has done the opposite. The two companies are not at all comparable in that respect. In fact, that's part of what has made MS successful while the likes of IBM and Apple have faltered, and, in some cases, failed. Bringing in the updating of drivers and DLLs simply indicates that you don't know what this issue involves. We're not taking about updating a driver. We are talking about scrapping the entire machine and/or application. That is what Apple is legendary for doing, and what Microsoft does not do. The most recent case of this is the Intel Mac. Do you want the version of Photoshop which will actually run native on the machine? Buy an updated version of Photoshop. While this is not as bad as what has happened in the past, it is still the same old same old from Apple. Do you know what I need to do to run Photoshop with native Intel based code? Keep using my version of Photoshop.
You were the one who pointed to the elimination of the floppy disk as one of the technology leadership things that Apple has done. Anyone who thinks Microsoft controls whether or not floppies are offered on a Windows box is simply poorly informed in the extreme. Ditto for other hardware. MS could care less what hardware is installed on a Windows box, and eliminating floppy drives was strictly a manufacturer decision. MS would only care if existing Windows customers were left high and dry by hardware decisions. I note that you've now tried to shift the discussion to software. That has zero relevance to a comparison between Apple and Microsoft. Which Apple machine, BTW, offers Linux? Who is the one controlling, in every respect the software and hardware shipped on a machine?
Certainly it is true that MS has dropped support for things like Windows ME and 95. However, this was only done years after these OSs had been superceded, and the OSs continue to be supported within the current version of Windows. Apple drops support almost overnight when new technology is introduced. Again, their lack of ongoing support for existing customers is legendary. This is one thing that allows them to implement new technology. They hold the cost down by quickly dropping support for existing customers. It also helps build their revenue since customers are forced to buy new machines or be left behind. MS does not do this, and it has paid dearly over the years for insisting on providing this support.
I think Apple fans have trouble understanding things like Vista. Yes, new versions of Windows take a lot of time to develop and test. That is due to several factors. One is MS pushing new technology which must be debugged. The other is insuring that existing hardware and software on Windows machines continue to function. Since there is so much more hardware and software that runs under Windows, the problem is far larger than it is for Apple. Everybody who is anybody, except of course for the exclusively Apple world, must be heard, and, possibly, accomodated. Once the new OS is released, that doesn't mean that everyone will flock to it. Businesses certainly do not, and most users probably do not. The OS is given more time to mature and get the kinks worked out. One comment that is frequently made about MS is that they eventually get it right. They do, and they will. Folks will look at Vista when that happens.
Yes, data loss happens on computers. However, you don't expect an application to destroy its own databases when insisting, not asking, that an update be installed. When that happens, you expect the vendor to supply a recovery path. If they don't, you are dealing with incompetence at the system software level, and arrogance at the management level. That is what my experience with iTunes revealed. No help. No recovery. Too bad. Buy it again. That is Apple.
BTW, in the iTunes case, the data was backed up. iTunes resolutely refused to restore the collection. There was no way to convince it to reload the music from a CD which the earlier version had created. It was that CD that Windows Media Player used to successfully restore my purchased library of music. Again. That is incredibly bad design at the system software level.
I don't know what systems environment you worked in, but I worked for years in Windows environment. The systems ran the applications, and did their jobs. There were few problems, and few calls for support unless something new was being installed or done. You may have gotten 5-10 years from your Apple machines. I can't judge that. However, they would have to hit close to 10 years before they would outlive a Windows machine by two years. At least where I worked, that was the case. We did not replace machines unless there was a good reason to do so. They might be passed down the food chain, but they were not discarded.
I am surprised that you need me to make your day. Oh well.